Sunday, January 18, 2009

time out

Edith Piaf had it correct: "Non, je ne regrette rien."

I do not always live my life regretting nothing. And days like Saturday seem to make me less like the Little Sparrow and more like the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah.

Two incidents on Saturday sent me into this reverie on Lamentations.

The first was a memorial service. One of the congregants in my church died last week. I had known Dick, and his wife Bertie, since I started attended that church. They would both sit right behind me every week.

Dick's son Michael delivered a very thorough eulogy at the memorial service. I did not realize how little I knew of the man who had shared physical space with me for a full decade.

He had been very active in setting up Oregon's park system. But, when Hawaii became a state, he was the first state park director, and essentially established the parks that many of us have enjoyed on vacation. He went on to live on almost every continent for extended periods of time. It was almost as if Bilbo Baggins attended my church.

To me, Dick and Bertie were simply an elderly God-fearing couple in their 80s, who never had a bad word to say about anyone -- ever. That may be evidence enough of a life well-lived, but I had no idea of the tales and experiences Dick could have shared with me -- because I never asked. And now I will never be able to share those moments with him in this life.

The second incident occurred right before the memorial service. My 81-year old mother drove down from Portland to treat me to a birthday lunch. Because she loves Mexican food, I picked out my favorite Jalisco-style restaurant.

A little background may help. My mother maintains her real estate business -- even at 82. And she has been eating and making Mexican food for several decades.

After we sat down, she immediately looked at the combination page. She paused, and asked me: "What is this word?" It was: ENCHILADA. I told her, and was shocked at her response: "What is that?"

She may as well have asked me: "Who are you?" I told her what it was. A minute or two later she laughed and said: "Why did I ask that? I know what an enchilada is. It must have confused me because it was all in capital letters."

I do not know what to make of that exchange. It is always easy to blow these little incidents out of proportion. But I need to start listening more carefully to these little warning signs. I have seen the same thing happening with her sister: the familiar becoming strange, confidence ebbing like a thawing icicle.

The lesson I draw from both events is rather mundane. Life is too fleeting to experience later. As an example, on Sunday, I usually rush out of church as quickly as I can. This morning I paused and talked with people, indulging in the type of chat I usually avoid. And I enjoyed it.

The application for my Mexico journey is simple. I need to be as open to new experiences as I need to be when surrounded by circumstances I think I already know.


Calypso said...

"Life is too fleeting to experience later."

Hardly mundane hombre - probably the single most important factor for consideration.

I always close with "Stay Tuned" - a somewhat more obscure way of saying the same.

All the stings in life must be strummed for there to be perfect harmony - Play On Amigo.

Anonymous said...

love that last paragraph. it's so true, for all of us.

yesterday i visited a 90 year old friend who lives in an assisted living facility. she is doing great but repeated the same stories over and over. i listened patiently and pretended i hadn't already heard them, participating in the conversation with her. i guess it will happen to most of us, if we make it that far. for your mom to be running a business at 82 is fantastic. that's probably what's kept her mind so sharp as long as it has.

that gentleman sounded quite interesting. that reminds me that there is an elderly couple living in my complex. i should try to get to know them. we can learn so much from hearing about other people's lives.

have a great week!


Nancy said...

...(I have always hated the description ¨god-fearing.¨ )

But I agree that it is sad to have lost the chance to get to know an interesting person. Lessons like that can change how we act in the future.

Good observation.

Steve Cotton said...

Nancy -- I know what you mean about the term "God-fearing." I should have used my preferred "God-loving." I just hope I can put my new-learned lesson into practice. We are so fast to judge people by our impression of them. We make them who we choose them to be, rather than who they are.

aighmeigh said...

Beautifully written. This is one of those posts that leaves you contemplative yet smiling softly.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Aighmeigh. I was, indeed, in a contemplative mode. Too often I need to remind myself to put into practice what I learn on life's journey.